Protein-degrading Plexium debuts with $28M to attack cancer, neurodegenerative disease

Investigation of protein expression (Image: AstraZeneca)
Plexium’s first areas of focus will be cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. (AstraZeneca)

Let’s add another protein degradation-focused biotech to the list—Plexium is launching with $28 million to build out its platform technology and advance a pipeline of drugs that target E3 ligases, the enzymes drive recognition of protein targets. 

San Diego-based Plexium joins the likes of Cedilla Therapeutics, Nurix and Kymera Therapeutics, all of which are looking to exploit the body’s protein degradation machinery—the ubiquitin proteasome system—to knock down disease-causing proteins. These companies are aiming at “undruggable” proteins, those parts of the human proteome that are not accessible with current approaches. 

“Inducing protein degradation by redirecting E3 ligases is an exciting therapeutic modality with immense potential to create safe and effective new medicines,” said Plexium founder and CEO Kandaswamy “Swamy” Vijayan, Ph.D., in the statement. “The levels of a vast majority of proteins in the cell are modulated by E3 ligases, including disease targets considered ‘undruggable.’ DELPhe can efficiently identify therapeutic small molecules for the precise manipulation of E3 ligases, unlocking control of disease-modifying pathways.” 

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The company’s first areas of focus will be cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

Its funding comes from DCVC Bio, The Column Group, M Ventures, CRV and Neotribe Ventures, the company said in a statement. Plexium will use it to develop its DELPhe (DNA-Encoded Library and Phenotypic Screening) platform.  

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“By screening millions of small molecules, simultaneously, for their impact on cellular RNA and protein levels, compounds with the desired activity profiles will be selected and advanced as therapeutic candidates in oncology and neurodegenerative diseases,” Plexium said in the statement. 

Plexium is not alone in going after cancer; Cedilla is targeting the stability of cancer-driving proteins, while Kymera is zeroing in on two targets, scaffolding kinase IRAK4 and transcription factor STAT3, in blood cancers. The latter company is also pursuing IRAK4 and STAT3 in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

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